% r l
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2012 with funding from
LYRASIS Members and Sloan Foundation
Poetry. Fiction. Essays, Art
VOLUME 1 ISSUE 3 Full 2010
MOUNT ST. MARY'S COLLEGE
12001 CHRLON RD.
Los Angeles. CO 90049
flUDEMUS Art and Literary
Kathleen Rrhizh- eoitor-in-cheif, m editor, lrydut
[ORRAINE BEDROS- Ron-Fiction Editor, poetry Editor, layout
LAUREN DELGflDO- fiction editor
MARCOS M VILLHTORD advisor
flUDEMUS IS PUBLISHED BY THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT. THE PROVOST OFFICE.
RNO THE STUDENT flFFHIRS DEPARTMENT OF MOUNT ST. MARY S COLLEGE OF
DEDICATED TO PADL CRAFT
Ruck Issues- $R
Current issues- $10
COVER HUT BY.
H MY Y flTES COPYRIGHT 2010 BY MOUNT ST MHRY'S COLLEGE ISSN PENDING
PRINTED IN VDN NllYS. [fl
TABLE OF CONTENTS
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
MflRISSfl FESTfl : UNTITLED 1
[ORETTR CONTRERflS; EflRTH OF WATER AND ClAY [AFTER fl SUMMER DF RUMl]
you wanted rhyme | wanted reason
rngie at her rosdand's fonerfll
My Body. Betrayer
LlNUfl RflVENSWUUU; THE SAINT OF PROFESSOR LEWIS HYDE 43
THE SAINT OF THE PHMPfl lEONOR flCEVEUU SOAAEZ : [A MADAE DE ROAGES 51
THE SAINT OF MEN 54
Carroll Son yang ; playing Cards and jades 15
phyllis rawley ; the pain eqdotion 2d
IE Van UawkinS; Family Iaaoition BO
THBLE OF CONTENTS CONT.
MRRISSR FESTH : Orinthdldgy 40
LAUREN DELGRDO: fl BROTHER. WHERE flRT jHOU? 74
flMY YfiTES ; UNTITLED ] 8
UNTITLED 2 9
UNTITLED 3 18
UNTITLED 4 13
UNTITLED 5 38
UNTITLED 8 39
UNTITLED 7 48
UNTITLED 8 47
UNTITLED 9 58
UNTITLED 10 59
UNTITLED 11 72
UNTITLED 12 73
UNTITLED 13 79
KATHLEEN RAAIZA : BAXED |N :
ON INTERVIEW WITH flMY YATES 42
CONTRIBUTOR S NOTES 78
FAMOUS [AST WORDS... 78
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR
Here we are— the third issue. Here 1 am -the last founding
member of Audemus. I'll spare you the gruesome details of the
threatening emails from disgruntled submitters, the tarnished friend-
ships and the imfamous hand trigger to the skull move 1 ultimately
This issue welcomed new faces and the opportunity for posi-
tive changes. 1 not only continued as Art Editor, but took on the role
of Editor-in-Chief as well. Incoming Senior, Lorraine Bedros, made
contrubutions as Non-Fiction and Poetry Editor, as well as layout
designer. Recent graduate, Lauren Delgado, came on board as Fic-
tion Editor. She also contributed a Non-Fiction short-story entitled,
"0 Brother, Where Art Thou?"
The personal pleasure cultivated from my experience working
on Audemus is publishing what was once the unseen and unheard.
This issue was no different as it features up and coming talent in-
cluding photographer, Amy Yates and writer, Marissa Festa.
Will 1 cherish and long to relive my beginning and final days
working for what remains to be a very green college journal? ...No.
But please, dear reader, do not misconstrue my curt tone as an un-
appreciative one. My time here was spent well and 1 look forward to
what will come next.
Come and see the science of hesitating:
Watch this fog hand slip over my mouth
turning basic blood to magnet metal
So I've stayed in this city, towing my demure doubt
along the same shiny geography
1 know home, this tiny earth
Of gold cliffs and the people that hang off them.
Here the tide works without the moon,
Pulling hearts out of empty bellies
The fog and tide and absent moon, they work together to crush this quiet
want of new jj
Of girls with sour, coastal blood entertaining God in some big city
Magnet blood doesn't speak easy
It lingers; it waits until the hanging-floor drops
To say its last words
All the same old
internal idioms; bating breath drying ink bleeding thunder
We lay on a bed of shrinking futures
We will hem and haw on the same gilded cliffs
As the changing mornings wait for me to leave, take chance, eat new air.
Maybe there's a little moon tonight
A motel-lit silver or gold, I'll be looking for it
from the boulevard
1 never left.
The ash man of broken ribs,
Pieces of rock and skull and night that shone like crossing guards,
Fitted his fresh death on pavement, his roots stretching so far into the
He is a concrete throat, glass teeth, and oil.
Wife will weep a stupid song about blunt death.
\l Use her salty taffy eyes to stick and construct a new life, blunt life.
The baby bride will turn her brain in bed
Staring dutifully at the histories it has made,
the snatchings of mortalities and grooms
The sky, half godless, maybe hateful,
will watch and maybe shake its head.
1 try to imagine the depletion of me
if it were only physical
some leprosy or a queer blackening of limbs
but the de-glowing is all here of course
a hermetic little assault
taking place so grandly on mount corpus callosum
it makes my laugh a straight line that cannot index what is funny
it makes me read my beloved jew-hating poet even all the damn foot-
with minimum outrage
1 ask; where are my onomatopoeias?
not many know the demands of the most pitiful operatic (solo) in
all the despondent correspondence
all the endless whining sopranos
But this year hear the pledge of potential:
the restoration of tender tongue
meet the one who will remark so remarkably, and hiss at silence
with a beamy full-glass axiom
goodnight cruel calendar
goodnight old-you, you maven of the morose
now is the hour to evict the sullen spores and remind you of this dusty,
and say goodbye
to being glass without the gleam
In conflict, my teeth stay under-gum
we rage eloquently,
1 cry in tremors
Thick in my throat, gurgling blips
But never smack, hiss, swear, throw house-wares, raise voices
The tear reddening my left eye is syllabic
The salt and spittle drying on my pants is an impossible shape
But earlier, it was guilt
We impart and emote with polite shrapnel
More dangerous than pitching glass tumblers
My features lose symmetry, the hard edges soften
In indoor voices, we play the hanging jury
and keep the thin words swinging
Like a noose
Playing Cards and jades »««>«
Spanish Hills Country Club. Staff break room. You and 1. Sixteen
and Sixteen. The employees surrounding us were older, a tad jaded, trails
of leathery wrinkles on worn out skin made more prominent under the
fluorescent lighting. Feathery, charming, gray haired bartenders and
chain-smoking waitresses. Gold diggers. Con artists. Pretty, but not terri-
bly. A warning.
1 was barely nubile, a hard green plum. You were hardly virile.
Your hands were only floppy fumbling paws, too big for you. We were so
little in the room. They mocked us. Hemmed us in with hairy knees and
cloudy teeth. They flit their weary lived-in eyes about, without us.
1 said something about not doing so well in college math. You looked
at me across the lunch table while the others were smoking and gossip-
ing over day old poached salmon and leaky Creme Brule. The chatter was
muffled as if we were drifting off to sleep, but we were alert. Hyper alert.
Two first spring foxes came face to face. 1 was wearing a female cum- |J
merbund and slippery black heels. Suffocating. You were in a starched
white caddy uniform. Your skin so bronzed. Your eyes, looking me over,
were huge and stricken blue under the flickering lights. 1 knew 1 was
blushing madly. Perhaps 1 was emitting some young bright light, the type
of light we are blessed with only on rare occasions, even when we are
too old for it. 1 saw your pupils expand and contract. Your lips curled
into a disarming half grin. 1 swear that was the moment that the deal was
sealed. The trajectory of our lives changed at that exact instant. Look at
your palm. It's etched there, in the V of the 1st branch. You said, you
could help me with the math but only if 1 would teach you to dance.
Later that afternoon, in my bedroom with the curtains' burgundy drawn
and that ratty shag carpeting under us, we made marker drawings on
typewriter paper, like children do. You kissed me real.
Remember, we would sneak out and cruise in your mocha flavored
Oldsmobile, gliding and creaking over creviced asphalt, as if at solid sea.
Inhaling the fertile rows of farmland, the sweet stench of it. The Santa
Ana winds whipping our fingers as they dangled out of the windows
making wavelike motions. Just like unmoored anemone.
We would end up at the state beach and pull in to watch the
phosphorescence breaking. We called them "stony lightning ghosts"
in the ocean. We were stony lightning ghosts. We tried to speak
poems out into the night. You and 1 would try to make fumbling
love. Hiding in the lifeguard tower with a plaid blanket over us. Our
vapors separated from the fog of beach by nothing. One night we
even dared to lie down on hard tar of the windy Pacific Coast High-
way, kissing until we heard a car speeding towards us. We fumbled
on skinny legs and tripping hearts towards the ocean and when we
got to the black foamy edge, 1 think 1 said 1 would die if you died. 1
think you said me too.
The August heat is oppressive.
Star Jasmine replicates.
Fevers cool slowly.
Stars litter the ginger smoke sky.
You passed me from friend to friend, let them feel me while
1 was slung over their laps with my head lolling. 1 saw my own
hands grabbing blue jeaned thighs and jaw lines as if for dear life.
The fingernails were long, rounded and cherry red. You convinced
me this looked sexy. 1 saw my polished hair on their laps next to
half open zippers. They lifted up my shirt. Bra-less. Felt me roughly
and laughed. One of them dared to kiss a nipple. 1 felt the electric-
ity in that, even though 1 didn't want to. One of the boys snarled
and threw me on the grass. You flinched and some of your playing
cards dropped to the ground. You picked up the cards neatly. Your
jaw was tight. 1 thought 1 saw a thick vein run down your neck and
disappear into your shirt. Your pretty lashes were a bark-tinted veil.
1 wept very quietly in the wet grass. Just feet away from you. My
heart was scratching at your pant leg. Scented summer. The crickets
were deafening. They were never louder again. You weren't smiling
while your friends were laughing. Pounding one another senselessly.
You were not.
You just were.
My clothes were here and there, the sleeveless bluebell blouse
flung behind the coiled garden hose and brave, white silk skirt
draped over the dog bed. My beautiful tortoise shell barrette trapped
under your heel. 1 never did find that again. Or even one like it.
The side of my face was pressed into the ground. Some people
say you must hug the merciless ground to know true misery. No, 1
said that. My hand felt the pebbles of your suburban landscaping.
Piles of small white grains littering the paths. Crushing clover. The
smell of gardenia and orange blossoms was unbearable. The stars
twinkling? Outrageous. 1 even whispered in a rasp for you to hear
"fuck you, stars."
Your friends stumbled indoors with heavy faded feet. You
sat there alone. Smoking Camel Lights with long draws. Swigging |7
gulps of beer uneasily it seemed, wiping your lips on your bare arm.
1 could see the full light of street lamps and the heavens shining off
of the trail you left. Your hands that handled me were now shuffling
four or five cards over and over. 1 know you were looking at me.
You kept swallowing. You thought my eyes were closed but they
weren't really. You knew that. We stayed that way for a very long
time. Listening to Led Zeppelin, through a sliding glass door, a crack
in the kitchen window, a muffled song seeping out from somebody's
home sweet home. Weren't we like a "living reflection of a dream?"
1 like to think you are still holding your cards in a way. Jacks.
Queens. Diamonds. Hearts. Buried under Spades. Aren't all scenes
just cinema? All cinema part of a collective cliche? I'd like to be-
lieve that. I'd like to think, that in a way, I'm still pressed into green
blades bending under my weight and you are still waiting to be a
The Pain Equation
1 only had four minutes of pillow talk before 1 lost my husband to
sleep. 1 asked, "Do you remember when 1 wasn't always in pain?"
He rolled over to spoon my body in his. "Yes, and you will too."
1 wasn't able to stay in the position long. His body heat set off a
Of] wave of hot flashes. Steam passed from my body through my skin and
left me glistening, every pore active with fine beads of sweat. 1 slid the
covers off and let the cool March night air fall over my body like fine silk
cloth. A needle sharp pain pierced my head from the front of the scalp to
the back with lightning speed. It shot into my eyelid.
Chris sensed it. He hugged me tighter. 1 waited for him to fall
asleep, then got out of bed to wait for the nightly dosage of pain relievers
to kick in.
1 remember years ago, when a majority of my day wasn't focused
on overcoming and beating back the waves of pain. There was even a
time when 1 enjoyed pain. It was good pain, the kind that usually devel-
oped thirty-six hours after a hard work out, really long run, or vigorous,
rough sex. 1 remember the satisfaction of my resting body speaking to my
mind, 'Yeah, you pushed me hard, and 1 liked it' It was rewarding, being
able to push yourself harder through the pain to that last mile.
I began race-walking at the age of nine, after watching Christoph
Hohne win the Gold in the 1968 Olympics 50km race walking competi-
tion. He beat his nearest competitor by ten minutes. His body was lean,
focused and in control, gliding along with hips that moved in a rhythmic
rotation. 1 was drawn to those hip movements, an exaggerated walk that
gave him his seven-minute mile. 1 was impressed by this muscular body,
and the next day 1 stayed after school at the track, pumping my arms and
pressing my heels down onto the ground, trying to emulate his stride. 1
loved the look of his body and wanted one like it. Fellow students teased
me about my peculiar gate from the bleachers, but that assured me 1 was
doing it right. 1 kept walking that day and over the next week 1 ruined
my school shoes. 1 caught hell from my mother for it.
Race walking was not a sport in our high school gym teacher's
repertoire. 1 learned to sprint, hurdle and push the shot put. 1 was fairly
capable over the hurdles and had the bursts of energy for the sprints, but
taller, thinner girls had better speed and endurance. 1 excelled at shot put,
combining a burst of adrenaline and thrust for a successful 40 feet scores.
1 won the high school competitions.
The gait came easily to me. 1 could walk a mile leisurely in twenty
minutes, but reduce that to twelve minutes if 1 race walked. My home was Tj
1.3 miles away from school, and my quick gait often made the difference
for getting to school on time. My track friends ran alongside me and tried
to learn the gait but gave up because it was easier to run than learn the
Olympic technique. 1 kept at it, but it would be another ten years before 1
ever met another race walker.
When 1 left home for college, 1 found the college sports filled with
the traditional track and field options. But 1 walked all over town, hun-
dreds of miles in running shoes that wore out miles before 1 could take
them off, shin splints that burned more than alcohol on a cut, and thighs
that rubbed and chaffed and blistered. Most mornings started with a
three-mile or 5k walk and double that on weekends. 1 walked through my
twenties and began finding race walking competitions to enter and some-
times win. As a 20K marathoner, 1 loved the sense that 1 was covering the
globe, making the planet smaller, easier to control.
Marathons are brutal to the body when covering hard surfaces for
several hours of repetitive motion. After mile 18, an all encompassing,
shooting pain accompanies every lift and rotation of my hip, calves, arms
and feet. Sometimes sports bra rubbed me raw, until the rash so blinded
me with pain 1 either stopped walking or lifted the bra over one or both
my breasts, freeing them to flop along in the breeze 1 created.
With a six-hour race 1 planned for pain, prepared for it and learned
to push through it, because 1 knew there was a prize - finishing and win-
ning over pain. Sometimes it came with a blue ribbon or a trophy and my
name in print.
My walking and racing opportunities shortened when 1 took a
position working for an aviation consultant. The nature of the business
kept me flying at a moment's notice to various countries. Uncertain of
my safety in middle and far-east nations, 1 was limited to the hotel tread-
mills. After a mere 30 minutes 1 found it too boring. And when my walk-
ing buddy remarried and moved away, 1 moved my seven pairs of run-
ning shoes from the front closet to my back bedroom.
In 1995 1 worked in an executive recruiting firm, took the profits
from that job and started my own firm. My business was prosperous and
1 walked more hours a week than 1 worked for the next two years. During
that time 1 met my husband.
Two years into marriage, 1 was cleaning up a back closet to make
22 more room for my husband's stuff. On the top shelf 1 came across my old
walking trophies and was suddenly ashamed of the dust on them. Each
particle of dust matched each pound I'd gained while sitting and snug-
gling contentedly on the couch next to my husband. My pre-sunrise
walks were replaced with breakfast in bed courtesy of my husband. Dis-
comforted at the shape 1 was in, 1 talked my husband into heading back
to the gym with me. 1 hired a trainer to kick-start my body into gear,
while my husband lifted weights and boxed. Three months into training
1 dropped 32 pounds, saw muscle definition and ached wonderfully from
the workouts, but was worn down with fatigue.
One early March morning, 1 left my gym after a particular grueling
stairs routine and headed straight to a meeting downtown. Another rider
and 1 entered the elevator when 1 felt a sharp, intense pain grabbing my
chest. The rider exited on the second floor and now alone, 1 doubled over,
gasping for air hanging onto the railing to avoid collapsing. 1 stead-
ied myself in the corner, slowly leaning back up as 1 caught my breath,
grabbing the railing so 1 wouldn't fall onto the floor. The pain subsided
as quickly as it came. 1 left the elevator and went into the meeting. Ten
minutes into the discussion my host stopped his presentation, watching
me drip profusely in sweat.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"1 think so. 1 don't know why I'm sweating so much."
1 completed the meeting and left with a handful of soaked Kleen-
exes. 1 continued all morning like this, drained of energy, skipping lunch
to run errands. On the way back to the office, my chest began to burn
again. Instead of returning to work, 1 chose the hospital.
Twenty-two hours later, after a normal EKG and cardiac stress test,
and twenty sufficient hours of observation, the cardiologist suggested, "It
was probably pleurisy. That's an inflammation of the lining around the
lungs and should clear up in a couple of weeks, but your heart is fine."
He patted me on the shoulders, smiled and left the room. 1 dressed and
made an appointment with my internist for a follow-up.
Later that month, 1 noticed a lump under my right armpit, and
made a mental note to watch it and see if it was there the following
week, but 1 got busy and forgot about it. 1 scheduled myself for my an-
nual mammogram in June. 1 always test in June in honor of my aunt's
birthday and survival from breast cancer. My radiologist found no lumps,
and 1 had the feeling of completing another hard mile in a race and felt 9^1
good that 1 was being so proactive with my health.
A week after the Fourth of July, 1 was in D.C. on a lobbying trip.
Exhausted after a day on the hill, 1 crawled into bed rubbing all the parts
of my body that ached and noticed a new lump in my groin area. This
lump was larger and harder than the one under my arm. Worried for the
rest of the trip, 1 kept touching it to see if it was gone or tried to squish
it and make it go away. When 1 returned home two days later 1 went
straight to bed, worn out from the travel. The next morning 1 started to
get out of bed and found my leg wouldn't hold my weight, and 1 col-
lapsed on the floor crashing into the nightstand and overturning the
lamp. Chris rushed in to the bedroom and lifted me back onto the bed.
"Something is really wrong." 1 said.
"Let's get to the hospital." His face was drained of color, and eyes
wide opened in fear.
"No, 1 can't stand the emergency room and on a Saturday. It will
be a zoo. I'll go to our clinic on Monday morning."
On Monday a nurse said it looked like a hernia and sent me for a
sonogram and set an appointment for me with a surgeon. The next day 1
let the surgeon feel around without saying a word. 1 felt like 1 had been
holding a lie in all this time and my body was now about to be caught.
He calmly washed his hands, sat down across from my husband and me,
and said he would only know for sure when he opened me up. If it looked
suspicious, they would test it for cancer.
"No one said that word before."
"If the lymph node looks suspicious, we'll send it to the lab and
we'll know within twenty-four hours." 1 couldn't believe that his calmly
delivered words and tone left me with such feelings of fear and anxiety.
My surgery was scheduled for Friday morning and twenty-seven hours
later, after a cardiologist, internist, podiatrist, radiologist and a gynecolo-
gist had all missed it, a surgeon found Hodgkin's lymphoma. Cancer of
the lymph nodes
There was no emotion, no excitement or fear about the hereafter.
1 looked around the room. The sun was high, just arcing toward the west
and 1 wondered what 1 would miss most? Only Chris, my husband came to
mind. 1 emerged from my bedroom feeling like a shaken fighter but ready
for another round in the ring. A refrain from our favorite singer Amanda
24 Marshall's song, "Trust me Baby This is Love," rolled into my thoughts,
"...one more mountain, hey so what..."
1 swore in those few moments while walking down the hallway to
the den, 1 heard my father's voice saying "Buck up kid, you'll be all right"
as he had said to me many a time when 1 was a little tomboy falling out
of trees or crashing my bike. 1 walked into the den to share the news with
my husband with a smile. Taking another deep breath, straightening up,
shoulders back, 1 said calmly "It's cancer." The color drained from his
face, his mouth dropped open, and he sat down as if he'd been punched
hard in the chest.
He stood up and took me in his arms and asked, "What do we do
"1 don't know."
1 went to the Internet and researched the disease, treatment mo-
dalities and the location of a local oncologist. 1 then called a nurse friend.
Her sister happened to be a board certified oncologist and well respected
in the state, and the best news of all, she could see me Monday. We got
packed and on the road in two hours and drove the twelve hours to Dal-
Dr. Mary Martin has a cancer treatment center in Fort Worth and is
known across the state for her early assessments and aggressive, effective
treatment strategies. 1 learned that Hodgkin's was the best cancer to get,
with an 84% recovery rate, and given my otherwise healthy body, 1 felt 1
would do well in treatment. 1 made a mental note to thank my trainer.
"The disease typically strikes Caucasians, teenagers, young adults
and males. Cancer is identified in four stages ranging from 1 to 4. Four
is the worst. You are Stage 3B, the 'B' meant 1 was symptomatic." Dr.
Martin relayed to me on the phone two hours after 1 returned to my
friend's home. And though 1 needed to be in treatment immediately, the
treatment was pretty standard so that she said any oncologist could treat
"1 would cut back on the wine during chemo as it causes back
pain." Chesbro said.
"Oh shit, how does one get through this then, weed?"
There it was again, the anticipation of pain, the pain it would take
to survive. The victory this time for winning would be the trophy of my £5
own living body. 1 focused again on the doctor's words.
"After two months of treatment 1 want to do another set of CT and
PET scans. We are looking for a 50% reduction in your nodes." He went
on to tell me, "If after six months we don't see a satisfactory reduction
in the nodes, you will need a bone marrow transplant, preferably from a
On the first day of treatment my husband drove me to the cancer
clinic, got out of the car, and walked over to my door to assist me out of
the car, a gentlemanly habit he had trained me from our first date. But 1
froze in the seat. 1 couldn't move. 1 looked up at him feeling my lip quiv-
er and said, "1 can't do this."
He knelt down beside me, holding my hand and said, "1 know Hon-
ey," and he waited quietly. The tears began to roll down my cheeks and 1
felt like 1 was about to face the hangman's noose. When ten minutes went
by he asked me, "You want to go home?"
"Yes" and with that, he gently shut my door and came back into
the car. 1 placed my hand on his before he could start the motor. "Wait
with me here; let me find some courage. 1 seem to have misplaced it." 1
closed my eyes, leaned back in the seat, and breathed deeply and slowly.
1 focused only on my breathing, its rhythm and speed, as if 1 were prepar-
ing to lift something heavy or karate chop a block of wood. 1 squeezed his
hand and said, "Let's get this started."
The porta-cath was foreign and still sore, but the nurse explained
that without it the chemo destroyed the veins and this tubing would al-
low the drug to reach the needed area faster. 1 was nauseous during and
immediately after that first 3-hour treatment session, but 1 felt fine for
the next seventy-two hours. When the seventy third hour came 1 started
thinking, "Wow, 1 can do this."
Ten minutes later, the nausea started. 1 started to feel like 1 needed
to puke, so 1 sat down on my office couch and thought 1 could let the
wave pass. The next ten minutes went by like a tornado, whirling about
in my head.
With each subsequent chemotherapy treatment 1 either slept at
home or went to work with nausea, pain and weakness. The nausea af-
ter a chemotherapy treatment came four hours earlier each time until the
nausea arrived on the same day, causing me to miss work more often.
JJG And my body was a wreck. My fingernails and toenails turned black and
blue. My skin bore age spots. One reaction from a chemo treatment made
my skin turn to carbon paper, so that any scratching or pressure made
a permanent scar. My hair was in amazingly good shape, with only the
gray, the newest hair, falling out. 1 added vitamin and homeopathic sup-
port, so that each day 1 took forty-one pills to repair and boost my im-
mune system and weakened body.
1 learned about acupuncture for the treatment of nausea and added
it to my after-chemo treatment modality after the eighth treatment. The
needles were painful, but lessened the nausea and kept the ache out of my
hollow feeling bones. My nerve endings were beginning to show signs of
damage, with shooting sharp pains traveling through the nerves for no
1 completed a second round of CT and PET scans, and on my birth-
day in December I got the call from my doctor that 1 was cancer free. 1
still had another two months of chemo to go. 1 completed my final che-
motherapy treatment, the eleventh out of twelve treatments.
Now it was time to feel my muscles strain and move again, pursu-
ing health and strength. 1 couldn't wait to feel the road beneath my feet,
and 1 was mentally ready to circle the globe before the sun rose. 1 could
hear my old path along the mountain road call out to me again, teasing
me with an early bloom of California poppies. But my body had tricked
me during the treatments. Instead of losing weight from the constant
nausea, 1 had put it on, 40 pounds in six months, due to steroids and in-
activity. 1 was sluggish, out of shape, and now weakness and atrophy set
in. My muscles ached from dawn to dusk with my newest pain, neuropa-
thy, which was described to me as a disease or dysfunction of the periph-
The nerve damage remained. 1 could work all day at my desk, oc-
casionally getting up for the bathroom, coffee or a meeting and not feel
any pain until 1 got in the car and headed home. The pain traveled ran-
domly, striking every conceivable nerve in my body. It worsened when 1
sat or lay down for twenty minutes or longer, and subsided only when 1
was physically active.
Dr. Crouse explained that there were two types of neuropathy, and
that a nerve conduction test would determine if it was major or minor
damage. Major nerve damage is pretty much irreversible and is misery on
earth, bumping you up to an eventual dosage of Oxycontin or a morphine 97
drip. The standard test consisted of painful needle pricks with electricity.
No major damage was found although the test doesn't detect the minor
nerve damage; Crouse said it is controllable and possibly reversible over
time. My treatment would be a cocktail of traditional pain medications
combined with new drugs like Cymbalta, Palomar or Lyrica, used primar-
ily for the treatment of depression.
1 tried changing my exercise routine to evenings, to allow me to
stay active longer in the day. That delayed the pain, but had the nega-
tive effect of less hours of sleep. 1 tried acupuncture, massage, hot show-
ers, cold showers, light therapy, Native American sweats, Reiki, cupping,
Brain Gym, oil essence, color therapy, Holographic Repatterning therapy,
daily fresh juiced vegetable drinks made for nerve support, mega dosage
of vitamins and supplements. 1 drank acai, mangosteen, goji, pomegran-
ate, and bilberry super juices. Most of them were too acidic for me, and
made my intestinal track crumble into diarrhea. All the healthy boosts to
my system had no effect on the nerve pain. It continued to increase.
1 began to wonder if other chronic sufferers found some nobility in
all this suffering and created religion to honor it. My mind wrangled for
a purpose to continue with the depressing cycle of pills and pain. When
an old friend, a shaman in the Huichol Indian religion, came to visit in
El Paso, 1 asked him if we would do a sweat for me. We were joined by
a couple of friends and we drove out to the New Mexico desert where he
owned land and had a ceremonial sweat lodge and two adobe brick huts,
one for a reprieve from the hot treeless desert sun and the other for food
storage and sacrifice preparation. Between the three buildings was a large
fire pit which we used to cook on, heat the rocks for the sweat lodge,
warm ourselves at night and keep the coyotes and rattlesnakes at bay.
The sweat lodge was set a foot into the ground which gave it a
ceiling of three feet in a round mud and straw structure about twenty feet
in diameter. It could comfortably hold ten people if no one wanted to lie
down. The door into the lodge required that you crawled in and settled
yourself in the near total darkness. Once everyone was inside, the only
brief light came from the glowing lava rock preheated in the fire pit. A
fire tender waited outside the lodge and kept the rocks hot and ready for
the lodge when needed. Chris and 1 sat together, touching lightly in the
pitch darkness and suffocating heat. With the shaman we waited, prayed,
£fj shouted, chanted and inhaled burnt sage. The darkness was overwhelm-
ing, thick and almost choking, and we were not able to see any move-
ment or light except for the glow of the red rocks that were brought in
with us. 1 leaned back against the adobe walls and let the sweat pour
down me, centering myself to let whatever spiritual realm work itself
over me. Then as if on cue a nerve ending sparked and 1 knew the sweat
and the hope 1 held in it for divine intervention was over.
My once meaningful work became just a job, something 1 did be-
tween pain pills and sleep. And though 1 was grateful that my marriage
was a sanctuary, the meds deadened my libido, and for the first time in
my marriage, 1 started to fake my orgasms. 1 had had enough of El Paso
and decided it was time to fill those moments of pain free, lucidity with
something more purposeful and beautiful.
We moved to Los Angeles. 1 loved the city and my new job, but
this began the period of time 1 called the three states of hell: neuropathy
while resting, angina-like problem while moving, and the drugged mal-
aise in between. After four nights in a row of waking up at 3:30 after
only three-four hours of sleep 1 began to believe that suicide was a ratio-
nal, loving and unselfish choice.
1 lay in bed, my husband asleep, and the room a comfortable tem-
perature, no dreams, just pain. Getting up and taking another pill would
make me oversleep, and 1 typically couldn't fall asleep again till dawn for
one more hour of sleep. Something had to change, as 1 felt 1 was driving a
car with no breaks toward the end of a cliff.
What still remained was the spiritual side of pain. When 1 closed
my eyes 1 let the nerve endings shoot off like an electrical storm on a hot,
dry night in the desert. 1 felt the sensation of power ebbing and flowing
in random patterns throughout my body, discordant and without rhythm.
1 began to medicate and listen for my body to drink in the drug, through
my blood vessels. 1 felt the throbs become duller as their bolts lingered
but were softer, but before shutting off altogether, there was always a last
big spike, which caused me to jump with the pain strike landed behind an
eye socket or in breast tissue.
1 listened for a message in the pain, and wondered what lessons
the nerve endings could teach me. Was there a toggle switch that 1 could
mentally control or even stop the pain if something was massaged or
controlled through meditation? There had to be a solution other than
drugs or death. And though 1 watched my belief in a higher power fade 9Q
away, 1 cringed at the thought of ghosts. 1 understand that it's supposed
to be the unresolved emotional, physical or mental pain in life that brings
ghosts back to try to repair the area of pain. If that's true, then death may
not be peaceful and pain may be eternal.
At the present level of 3200 mg of Neurontin for the resting pain
and 100 mg Palomar for the moving pain, 1 no longer dream. My mind
attempts to dream during the day and 1 see visions from the lack of REM
sleep. What seemed like a really great plan for a new project or presenta-
tion, when attempting to write it, comes out incoherent on paper. Now
I've learned the difference and the similarities between exhaustion and
I've never forgotten that joy is fleeting and that pleasure is just a
state of being 'pain free'. Knowing now that a day is not promised, re-
quired a certain carefree mentality, or my morose moments would take
hold and never let go. 1 choose the funny movie vs. the drama, the com-
edy club instead of the live music and all the orgasms, the tastes, the
smells, the sounds, the touches and the beauty 1 can squeeze in. Damaged
nerve endings remind you above all else that you are painfully alive and
the senses more heightened and eager for stimulation.
What a nice thing our body does for us: it compensates. It natu-
rally becomes a hedonist when pain is the thief of normal pleasure. I've
broken both ankles, suffered a concussion, torn tendons from numer-
ous falls, and dislocated a shoulder from skiing. I've taken a few licks in
fights, been chased by a bull, and crashed bicycles and cars several times.
Beaned in the head with foot and soccer balls, second-degree burns, heat
stroke and cocaine overdose, abortion, and four surgeries. And now 1
added near death poisoning through chemotherapy to the things that
make up my life.
Today 1 identify as an intentional hedonist. My purpose is to find
and relish the moments of joy and pleasure and to celebrate the happi-
ness that comes with it in an ethical manner. A lazy hedonist only takes
his or her pleasure when it is convenient, free or easily stolen. But as a
true follower 1 look for pleasure as a right and a gift not to be wasted.
Looking for pleasure in everyday things makes getting out of bed a joy
of discovery. 1 still wake up with back aching pain when 1 get out of bed
and pain in my legs and feet when they hit the floor for the first few
Qfj steps out of bed. But the world welcomes my mind not in the past news
stories, but in the advertisements for the future things to do in my home
here in Los Angeles. 1 determine the handful of pills 1 need to take for
the day and set about looking at what's ahead — work, love and pleasure
in each day. Each day 1 still enjoy the opportunity to face the duality of
pain and pleasure, and as 1 get older those polar opposites are sharper
and in more focus. 1 can let pain dominate the other emotions or experi-
ences, but 1 choose not to. 1 am reminded with each flash of dolor that
my brain works, and so does my body and my ability to live life not as a
victim of pain, but strangely with it.
[OR ETTA poems
the day you thought you had enough water,
and wanted to be carried to high ground,
i was imagining what it would
mean for me to lose my mud.
god has allowed some magical reversal to occur,
(this incident is about your fear of changing,
in myself i am.
i build to fit in
with my surroundings-
sometimes, even now, a reed in a bed of music;
other times, a right-foot pivot in a whirl;
always a very great ornament indeed.
oh! joy for this soul and this heart
who have escaped the earth of water and clay
to now be in the hands of the beloved;
to now sing as my own flint, my own spark.
EARTH OF WATER HMD CLAY
[AFTER R SUMMER OF
YOU WANTED RHYME | WANTED REASON
I'm more familiar with the smell of rain
On busy streets, and desert heat that whips
Through mountains spreading sparks-those crazy bits
Of desert dust that people try to blame
Their fits on.
Cotton has a way
Of making noise, a kind of screech that twists 99
My spine and makes my teeth burn with an itch.
And my mother changed up bedtime stories
Making them gory, horrifying us
1 can live on tortillas and butter.
RT HER HUSBAND'S FUNEDBL
near the base of the family sepulcher,
before the wind from the bright
glossy brass drifted from a
weathered mouth, a low grito.
behind, the rows of cold, polished stone
worn from dress shoes stepping and scraping,
viejas of high-heeled mud
whispering of old stains
(some among the group, the toxic,
singeing, cheap, infectious, turgid
chisme with slight smiles, and hushed
hot-voice covered mouths,
Ya llore mucho, mi amor.
Ahora me levanto.
she began con grito,
a new world, as Xipe Totec—
bold, burgeoning through those
she's sacrificed, down around her,
the old, protective skins.
first the skins, then the low hopes
from exhaustive fits, one by one.
rebirth will be divine.
but for now,
the stiff itch from shedding,
and the lessening of rot.
On flat land, 1 fear the wind
And the immeasurable distance
1 can tumble. My ankles are weak
And I've short nails on small hands.
These things 1 let loose in a sigh
Against the airplane window.
1 grew up in Wisconsin, in a valley
With mountains all around me.
Said the woman next to me.
She waited until 1 turned-
It took me a long time to adjust
Living differently too.
Maybe she heard me breathe heavily,
And from the comer of her eye,
Saw me write on my napkin
That 1 grew up penned.
How so, 1 asked, just to be sure.
1 just felt safer, 1 don't know how else
To say it, being enveloped.
MY BODY BETRAYER
When 1 should be stretching my limbs
When my legs should be running the rest
Of me away, when my feet
Should be sounding out self-preservation,
1 am betrayed with a dance that isn't mine.
] stopped wearing short dresses and skirts
At the age of twenty-three. My legs
Became the permanent residence
For tributaries: double-crossing
Blue, two-faced red, and sometimes
Deceitful green. They pay in pulse to
The things 1 am averse to
Begin irritating me in my right eye.
They swell and sag it with
A weight 1 can't blame on dust,
Something 1 ate, the rain.
You'll know what to look for:
A twitch in my right hand
And its slow ascension
To push back an honest answer.
1 hail the waitress with a half-salute. She wiggles over to me, ad-
justing the paper headpiece that is both amusing and degrading. Rosie,
her nametag declares. "Well, Rosie" 1 say, "I'll have two eggs over easy.
And a coffee, black." This was always my victory meal, a simple reward
for ajob well done. 0R|MTHDLOGY BY M^SSA FESTH
1 look out the grimy window at the crows pacing the parking lot.
Over the past few weeks 1 had gotten a vaguely threatening impression
from the birds here. 1 figure after Hitchcock had made them and Bodega
Bay so wickedly famous, they must feel pressure to live up to their repu-
tation. A few ravens land on my car and stare into the diner at the de-
pressing clientele. 1 watch as more land on the hood of my grey Chevy,
guarding it like expectant feathered gargoyles. They're just giving the
public what they want, 1 think.
While folding the plastic menu, 1 notice a streak of blood on my
white shirt. A couple specks of browning DNA right there on my sleeve.
I've already been to three different dry-cleaners this week, figuring my
usual cleaners would soon grow curious about my growing collection
JH of blood-soaked V-neck cardigans. Still, there was something satisfying
about seeing the blood on my clothing. It was one of those details 1 knew
that my fellow diners would only recall afterwards. When a tarty blonde
will later report here, underneath the unglamorous lighting of an all
American diner, she will give some sensational narrative and everybody
will recall what it was like to dine at the same counter as a monster.
Monster. 1 roll the word around my mouth for a while. Inspired, 1
try to predict what my moniker will become after 1 make more progress
- once 1 get my sleeves a little dirtier. 1 have to think of something be-
fore somebody appoints some embarrassing title onto my work. The Beast
of Bodega. No, too old-fashioned. Maybe "The Brute of the Bay"...? So
broody, 1 think, wondering if the alliteration is really necessary.
1 look out the window again, as the parking lot slowly becomes an
aviary. Two young boys are trying to shoo the birds away by squawking
and clapping their hands. It's clear that they haven't mastered the lan-
guage. The birds continue glaring, un-amused at this role reversal.
Then it comes to me. The Bird-Catcher. An obvious metaphor
couched in cheeky British slang.. .but hooky and memorable. 1 smile
at the name, remarking how accurate it is. Soon my reputation will be
grander than Hitchcock and his chirping actors. Everyone will know how
1 plucked these innocent girls from this dozy coastal town and wore their
blood to lunch.
Rosie interrupts my self-congratulation by setting a brown plas-
tic plate in front of me. Her smile looks forced with years of experience.
Strangely, 1 almost feel bad for her standing there in her yellow dress,
poised with a golfer's pencil and pad of paper. 1 chew my over-over-easy
eggs but they're a disappointing reward, comparable to eating a novelty
1 salt my final bites and stare at Rosie in the diner's kitchen. Be-
hind the line-cooks, she punches her lengthy beige timecard. 1 stretch my
neck upwards to watch her remove her recyclable crown and sad badge.
My eyes follow her procession of goodbyes. First to the cooks, then the
waitresses, and finally the teenaged hostess at the front door.
With her uniform hidden underneath her dark coat, 1 notice her
features. Somehow her waist looks smaller with the extra layer on, which
1 attribute to the trickery of pastel polyester. 1 watch her in the parking
lot shooing away the crows surrounding her sedan. 1 throw eight dollars
onto the countertop and quietly laugh to myself as 1 realize tipping her A]
now would be pointless.
1 put my overcoat on, concealing my stained shirt, masking any
evidence of villainous intent. Walking out of the Greasy Spoon, 1 see
Rosie persuade the final bird away from her with wild arm waving. This
display is certainly her most elaborate farewell.
How rare for me to know her name - and now to have a name of
my own. It will be a new, personalized advantage for the main event.
A seal of officiality. 1 start to whisper Rosie, Rosie, Rosie under my
breath, waiting for her to reverse out of her parking space. Getting into
my Chevy still garnished with fowl, 1 wait until she turns left out of the
diner's lot. Driving behind her on Highway One, 1 see her gamine reflec-
tion in the side-mirror. My heart rate and car accelerate as 1 imagine the
quiet clip of her wings.
My sleeve is still wet inside my coat.
Rosie, Rosie, Rosie.
One more crow for the murder.
BOXED IN: RN INTERVIEW WITH RMY YRTES
BY KATHLEEN ARA1ZA
Amy Yates is here to "protect, harbor and constrict." Well,
not Amy herself but rather, her photography. In her latest series,
titled Boxed In, Yates examines the notion of "reactions to restricted
space" as she captures nude subjects as they are individually con-
fined in a 2 V2 x 2 ] h wooden box. During the process of this inter-
view, Yates was finishing her last semester at the University of San
Diego and wrote to me about her last two series and early life raised
by a creative family:
1 grew up in Redlands, California, where 1 was raised by a writer and a
professor of Shakespeare who both valued the importance of the arts,
and have pushed me to think creatively since 1 could walk. 1 can't
remember a time in my life when 1 wasn't creating or studying art—
whether seriously or playfully.
When did photography become your medium oe choice?
In high school, 1 took a painting or drawing class every year, but it
wasn't until 1 got to the University of San Diego that 1 had done any
photography. After 1 took a beginning black and white class, 1 was
never without my camera. 1 discovered that 1 loved the camera as a
medium because of the limitations. A photograph is real. Each pho-
tograph captures a moment in time that can't be changed, and what
is in the frame actually happened. My approach became progressive-
ly complex and ambitious and, 1 suppose, darker, as 1 became more
serious about photography. 1 started to photograph startling scenes
with the hopes that the viewer will think about that moment in time
really happening-that moment being real.
NOW YOU SAY YOUR WORK HAS BECOME "DARKER" SINCE YOU BECAME MORE SERIOUS
ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY. WHY DO YOU THINK YOUR WORK TOOK THIS DIRECTION?
1 think it became an issue of problem solving. When 1 began making
photographs, 1 wanted them to be "pleasant" or "happy" or "beauti-
ful," but once 1 finished one, 1 would be content and ready to move
on. There was no problem or issue to be solved in my work, so it
wasn't something that brought in a lot of attention. When we look
at something that's pleasant, we take it for what it is, enjoy it, and
move along. But if we're confronted with something that may be
uncomfortable or confrontational (in art) 1 believe, at least for me,
that it creates a connection with the viewers, because the viewers
are faced with a problem and want to understand it-they want to
figure out why they are uncomfortable.
HOW DID YOU APPROACH THIS IDEA OF CAPTURING THE UNCOMFORTABLE AND AWK-
WARD REACTIONS FROM YOUR SUBJECTS?
Initially, 1 was merely interested in watching people through a lens
and seeing their initial reactions and movements. These reactions 4u
were mostly those of discomfort, and discomfort began to be what 1
liked to capture. This led me to realize that 1 have an interest in the
disturbed. 1 started to move my subjects into a studio and stage the
scenes. 1 had my subjects remain hidden or reserved-the opposite
of what 1 believe is a stereotype of the "glamorous" or "beautiful"
Several of Yates' images featured in this issue (four to be exact, including
the cover image) are from a series titled girl with the long hair. what is
the focus of this series?
The series, (]IRL WITH LONG HfllR, investigates beauty by directly mixing it
with unsettling images. It investigates transformation in that my
subjects seem as if they are trying to change, but there is a constant
struggle to do so. It interrogates the anxiety of fitting in. 1 chose to
photograph a "beautiful" girl with long blonde hair (or what 1 have
seen to be a common stereotype of beauty today.) 1 wanted to take
this "beautiful" girl and create images that hide her from the viewer,
or make her un-beautiful. 1 manipulated light to create eerie, un-
canny feelings. Yet the light itself is beautiful. There are oppositions
here of subject vs. beauty, and beauty vs. happiness. What is most
important to me is continuing innovation, so these photographs
struggle to discover insights through fresh juxtapositions that, 1
hope, counter expectations or habitual ways of seeing.
and from Girl With [ong Hair arrives your latest series, boxed |n, which was
SHOWN AT USD AS PART OF YOUR ART MAJOR THESIS. COULD YOU ELABORATE ON YOUR
For my show, BOXED |N, 1 wanted to take my work a step further. 1 have
always photographed women surrounded by darkness, and 1 would
bind them in string, or their own hair to create a sense of confine-
ment, which was surrounded by negative space. 1 decided that 1
wanted to explore the body, and the body being confined in a literal
sense, and that is what led me to the box. 1 built a wooden box, 2
1/2x2 1/2 feet, and put my subjects inside. 1 also decided to photo-
graph men as well as women.
WHY THE BOX?
The concept I'm working with is about confinement. 1 am investi-
gating the ambiguity of the box as a metaphor. These photographs
are about reaction to restricted space. My subjects may appear to
be "boxed in" and trying to escape as if from a cell or a trap (or
resigned to their condition), and yet simultaneously this enclosure
seems to provide shelter and protection and can be seen as a type
of armor— a protective shell. My subjects are nude, making them
extremely vulnerable and uncomfortable, a condition enforcing the
ambiguity of the box being either their sole protection or their soli-
What other external sources influenced [jIRL WITH LONG HfllR and BOXED |N?
One of my favorite photographers, who highly influenced Girl With
Long Hair is a photographer named Mario Cravo Neto. He photo-
graphed different spiritual and religious aspects of the Afro-Brazil-
ian culture in Brazil that play out in his use of eggs, birds, animals,
fish, and bones combined with the nude human body. They are
somewhat startling images to me, but I'm sure that is only because 1
am a North American viewer. Other photographers who have influ-
enced my work are Edward Weston and Ruth Bernhard. They each
work with the female nude. Yet they work with it in a sensual way-
something 1 am trying to avoid in my work. 1 also really admire the
work of Diane Arbus and Nicholas Nixon.
COMING ER0M MY PERSONAL CURIOSITY, l'VE COME TO DISCOVER THE INEVITABLE
DISCUSSION WITH OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS 1 MEET IS DIGITAL VS. FILM PHOTOGRAPHY. DO
YOU SHOOT WITH BOTH? WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THIS TOPIC? 4d
Everything 1 do is shot with film. 1 have messed around with digital
a bit, but have never been satisfied. It basically comes down to the
film grain versus the digital pixel, as well as the printing process.
1 shoot with medium format cameras (a Pentax 6x7 and a Hassel-
blad 6x6), so, while my film is still not extremely large, it is much
more detailed than 35mm film, and, in my opinion, digital images
as well. I'm sure that could be argued, but from personal experience
as well as working with other serious artists, 1 have found that film
is the way to go. Also, 1 can't imagine replacing hours spent in a
dark room with hours spent in front of a computer screen. That just
seems absurd to me.
If you'd like to learn more about Amy and her upcoming work,
email her at email@example.com.
IB \ ■ ■
■ 1 vi
|1 V j
THE SflINT OF THE PROFESSOR
So much la-la-la
1 have been known as Negro
Sable Mother's genius was on me.
1 did not go to banks;
Humans could not budge me,
1 was all at once unmanageable.
The word Art, 1 made that. in
1 married a mathematical topologist.
( Not much was available.)
He had sixteen sayings and at night
Would pray " Babylon, Babylon
To translate is to betray " and fall asleep.
1 would look at him over the cigarette smoke and scowl in the dark.
The cattle once stolen become domestic beasts.
Hear now, the essentiality of love
In a bed, of sex in a bed, a kind of bed,
On a ship, or a bedship, the arms of lovers enjammed
Unto the dawn, the chests of lovers beheld and spun
Of all the blue darkness that lives behind closed eyes
And of all the red spotted darkness that shakes behind desire there,
And all of this held against the shamed-whispering cries of childhood
In a broken down penny arcade in Visalia,
Or a beat shaft card room of Chiang-Yuan,
Or a miserable sweat box in Chichen ltza, everyone is eleven once,
Every one is blistered of loneliness;
To and fro that longing rests, finally, upon the life of another.
A man, a woman, a scrap of time and try, and Love,
The cosmic linguist, the one who cuts along the joint,
The one born last, Hermes, the forge stone. Love,
That sings the song of open passages, in languages found
In sleeping bibliographies, Love, who cries for the broken lexicon,
And for the alternating seasons of raven;
Papa Legba, open the gate, the barrier of difference, Love
Is dancing in the backlogs, and shouting with tears, Come
And let us run in the dissolving day.
Stolen butter should never be the basis of marriage
Krishna will steal the heart of anyone, then disappear.
Hermeneut, decipher the rags of the belly,
Unplait these dripping brains,
Make me pure again, like 1 never was.
A man comes and begs admittance.
Long ago 1 lost a hound he says.
Zeus himself is the uninterpretable speaker
And we stare into the misunderstood,
The world, our beloved illegible codex
While the children of woman and man
Eat the dirt on the outskirts of
And are trapped in history.
THE SfiINT OF THE PflMPH
lEONOR flCEVEDO SORREZ : LR MRDRE DE [jORGES
THE BLIND POET FROM ARGENTINA
They always said the blind poet from Argentina did such and such,
That his mother fed his eyes and wrote his mail
And that his arms were brown and white and blind
As they crept in the house on their typewritten requests for bread
And paper, Mas papel, Mama, IMecesito
Papelitos para la ropa de mis hijos. Mama ?
Perhaps the cynic thinks that there were times
When his mother hated him for his eyes
Perhaps the cynic thinks that there were times
When his mother wished that she had only held
Her legs together and refused the seed.
Perhaps the spirit would have come to her again, ul
But it is an unnecessary train of thought,
She did not stiffen to refuse his father,
She let her legs fall apart like leavening yellow cakes,
Like splitting nut halves, green and awake,
Two pink and sticky fig bodies, her thighs
Ruffled open in brown, luscious skin.
Of the blind poets' paternity we do not know much else.
Perhaps the cynic thinks that there were times
When the city could have used another worker in the plaza,
Another hearty body to lay the columns in,
A sweaty face and a healthy back
To carry the sacks of cement
Along the treacherous road of the quarry,
A man, with heart and limb
To offer his energies for the land and for the state.
What is this poetry anyway ? Can you eat
These spotted white loaves of words ?
Can the children eat these visions ?
And of his brilliance, his dripping tongue and shocking brain,
His never-was-ing eyes, his so - called gifts,
His naked eyes alone in the stabbing darkness,
His naked eyes alone at the top of the stairs,
His naked eyes encroaching on a vision too terrible to speak,
A vision that groans behind the lids and must be born out,
A monstrous human vision chased by death
And the blinding reality of disconnection from
Every one, every where.
Grey shadows lap and laugh across the rug shirrs,
The little dog licks a new patch of dusty fur,
Silent tea leaves muddy the side of the demitasse,
And soak in their slitherage and in their waiting.
The poets' room is cool, as time lightly calibrates
In the hollow dancing clocks on an afternoon of old flowers
And the occasional fly. There are no words today.
The metronomic brethren of his mothers' house,
their polar eyes of tick and tock, regard him always
In the house of glass, his mother feeding and
Wiping him from infancy through his genius,
Her ministering thumbs, her needly golden thumbs
From the caverns of almost too, too much.
In the great white house in the jungle
Where the white hides in the brown, the poets' eyes
Bead and swell and know a subtle language. They elide,
1 will tell of our sweet scented kisses
Of the fallen decades,
From the dusty tens and twenties
Of calendars past
1 will tell of your hot blown skirt cuffs,
The blue velveteen purr in the crushing embrace
1 will tell of your white smudging eyes
In the blinding sunshine of Buenos Aires,
The women staring us down for our love, our youth
Their tight Modotti hands braiding spells in the husks
Their knowledge of blood and freedom mashed
Between the powdered kernels, the sweet technology
Of time and chlorophyll
1 will lay my heart down like the labourer in his cot
1 will lay my blind pen before the alter of My Eyes
1 will ...
The blind poet sits choking in the sunshine on his bright memories.
His old skin hangs like the crepe dangles of Christmases past,
Solemn old paper twists of rainbow DNA,
Strung out like flags of mediocrity, old skin and hair
Hanging like the funereal banners of an ungrateful town,
In an unfinished, mauve appointed Social Hall,
So long, Sorry to see you go, Thanks for the things you did,
What were those things you did ?
The blind poet from Argentina, a good moniker, but only
If you like that sort of thing.
His tears and longings are the same as ours,
He is no bright Moshiach,
Get a hold of yourselves, artists. tjQ
He sits with a crooked look on his old face, his mouth aslant and wonder
ing if all of his letters in ink
Amount to the brief signs of a child
Standing before the morning glass,
Pressing finger messages in melting condensation.
The poets' eyes are shut so tightly together in his blindest reverie,
Even the closest investigation of breath from his mother,
Coming in with the tray of coffee and pan dulce, will be shut out.
In the room there is a high scent of moss and jasmine and seashells.
Somewhere in his breath there is a little flame of magick.
The Spirit will come back another time, and the children will eat
And thrive on his visions.
he sat there telling her some of the truth during the self
congratulatory I'm - so - generous part of the constantly
running, invisible documentary of his life, presumably
filmed by the angels and the ghost of ingmar bergman.
the continuity was amazing except for those times when
the machine was on the fritz, whole sections of the time
he'd lived in idaho were missing, and most of his daugh-
ter's pubescence, and there was that one section during his
second marriage that had someone's entire thumb in the
lens, he absolutely never thought of those times though,
so it was really a blessing in disguise, trouble was one
day, one of the lost sections showed up on the front porch
when his girlfriend was home and dressed for company,
she said how the hell are you and showed the section
around the house, the lost section said it was comfortable
waiting for him in the living room, and, drinking tea out
RJ. of the girlfriend's china, told her all about the rape and the
photos, about the big n slutty porn and something about
tax evasion, the section was calm and pulled no punches,
after a while though, he said he couldn't wait any longer
and stiffly stood and walked out of the house, when her
boyfriend came home, all he said to the news of the return
of the lost chapters was that if she'd really loved him, she
wouldn't have brought it up. later that night he shoved
her awake in the lamplight and with it tight between his
thumb and fore finger, snubbed his cigarette butt out on
the pink area between her labia and the close canal, lucky
for her, the constantly running, invisible documentary of
her life had a finicky record button too. she would hurt for
a few days, but pain never killed anyone, like he always
THE SHINT OF MEN
BY CHRCLL SUN YflNG
My sweet life as a killer began one afternoon in our Greenmont
Village tract home, a sunny Californian modern sort, with ample op-
portunities for sunbeam dust viewing. Oh, the splendors of eating sunray
diamond dust and boogers, sprawled out on plush cream carpeting. It
happened one "after school special" hour, the first murder. A common
species of housefly, to which 1 will affectionately refer to as Nub, became
my lovely victim.
Nub was a portly humzer with oil-spilt skin of the most gorgeous
and winning green, six legs of ridiculously crimped, split ended lashes
and last but not least, those glorious melt- in-your-mouth wings. Angel
wings. At first, 1 simply desired to play with him, perhaps only a minute
or two. Those perfectly spaced fractions of time strung out in a quivering
line to form two of the most despicably horrid and positively final hours
of Nub's life.
At first, 1 flirted with him, dangling him by a prickly leg, pinning
him down with a steady and focused fingernail, staring into his kidney
colored eyes. Those plastic eyes. You dare observe me? It was then that
1 snapped. Staring back into those costume bead eyes plugged so surely
into his face. 1 knew 1 had to destroy him.
1 began with the legs. Plucking one with a certainty 1 had never
known before, it slid out easily with its sac of thigh guts or fly muscle
(one can never be sure about these things.) 1 thought 1 saw him cringe, his
eyes pleading and his head moving back and forth in half-rotations. 1 put
him on his sea of creamy forest floor and watched him walk tight circles.
Round and round he went. Where are you going and where have you
been? No one knows except for God and me.
Oh Nubkins. Oh Nubbie. Oh Nubbles.
He peered up at my bloated red face and sweat beaded summer-
time-fun nose. His head cocked to the side as 1 gently closed my grubby
pinchers on his protesting wing. That too slid out easily, as he watched
twitchingly. 1 proposed a test. Could this half-winged and partially de-
limbed speck in time actually maintain flight? 1 cupped my hands creat-
ing a dark and moist tomb for his plump body and then 1 threw him. 1
threw him as high into the atmosphere, universe, galaxy, as he might go.
The throw put my shoulder out a tad. Transcendence is rough.
Sfj He floated through paths of warming sunlight, his eyes colliding
with minute and swirling dust pubes. He watched me kneeling there with
my head flung back and my shoulders taut, waiting. At the climax of his
ascent, fear seemed to paralyze him. There began his descent, the star of
his very own "Apocalypse Now." What an awkward and wobbling mass.
His remaining wing flapped solo, causing him to lose control.
Land on my forehead and tango with my lashes. Roll down my
cheekbone and catch on my sweater sleeve. Flick you off. Spiral butt dive.
Crash landing. A great insignificant thump on the floor is what you are.
You are nothing.
Are you alive?
1 leaned over him, breathless. My god, he had survived. 1 stripped
him as he helplessly submitted to my sickness. Most of the legs were eas-
ily persuaded, except the last. This being more securely anchored into
Nub's onyx greenness would only break in half. Half was enough. Now
his glorious wing, the envy of all earthbound insects, this wing must be
I'm taking you, rainbow. Coward. With his eyes clouding over in
pain and a quarter rotation of his head, he pleaded silently... Pluck!
Now he lay there to my satisfaction. A nub. A black smudge to
be devoured by time. His death was inevitable, as is mine, and yet the
way in which he went would be so outstanding as to warrant vows of
silence amongst his family and friends. They would never speak of the in-
cident after the initial discovery. Even then, it was with hushed jaws and
bent heads that they ate him.
One would think that at some moment 1 would have been gag-
ging on overwhelming guilt and remorse, dripping tears of repentance
and snot sorrow, caressing wooden rosary beads and praying for my dark
murderous heart to be healed. Perhaps 1 should have rethought my ac-
tions. Probed my motive. Discovered the source of such impulse. Imple-
mented a plan to stop a re-occurrence. Ah yes. One would think.
IfVRN II HAWKINS
1 bent over my uncle's 52 year-old grave on Memorial Day, the
holiday 1 once considered the holiest and most exciting. It was the day
1 stuffed myself with barbecue, took part in my family's ritual of honor-
ing our dead, and later had an adventure so exhilarating, it left me out of
breath. By my own insistence, the adventure had long been discarded, the
aftermath of a youthful rebellion where 1 was the unwilling leader. Now,
over thirty years later, the barbecues were no longer and it appeared the
ritual was coming to an end. My family was in jeopardy of being left with
Food was my comfort and my obsession; a plateful of my favorites,
the equivalent of being held tightly against my grandmother's bosom. 1
ate solid foods before any other patient in my sixty year-old pediatri-
cian's history. By the time 1 reached elementary school, 1 had become
an eating machine, my gift for devouring prodigious quantities of food,
legendary. "Baby, don't you ever get full?"
In the safety of the family cocoon, 1 ate at will, attacking the
dinner table as soon as whoever blessed the food had uttered the last
"Amen." Family members and visiting friends sat at the dinner table
shaking their heads in disbelief as this extremely thin boy, oblivious to
their astonished stares, polished off one overflowing plate after another.
Holiday dinners were the highlight of my year each with its own distinct
style, ritual and menu. 1 excitedly circled them on our calendar.
New Year's Day dinner menu was the only one 1 couldn't envision
except 1 knew there would be collard greens and black-eyed peas.
"Papa always made sure we had greens and black-eyed peas for
New Year's," Mother would say. "Greens for cash; black-eyed peas for
Mother enjoyed trying something "different" (her favorite word as in
"Turkey 8t cranberry dressing. Nobody's done that around here. Yes, I'll
have that; that would be differenf). Pork loin, beef, duck, ham, chicken
and tuna, in a multitude of guises have all made their appearances over
the decades alongside numerous dessert and side dishes.
For days after the dinner, 1 filled my plate with a variety of mouth-
watering dishes including my favorite, Mother's potato salad which we
only had on the holidays, each spoonful a symmetrical delight of potato,
boiled egg, dill pickle, celery, onion, and green pepper perfectly seasoned
with salt, black pepper and paprika with a dash of mustard for "color."
Easter dinner was at the family house after church services. This
was followed by an afternoon Sunday School program which my brother
and 1, wearing our new Easter clothes, would take part, the length of our
Easter recitations increasing each year as demanded by Mother, a former
Sunday School teacher and director of the Easter program before we were
July 4th at my Aunt Ophelia's was more a party than a family
dinner. Fancy cars lined the streets, many of the owners cool-looking
outsiders from Chicago (which we called "The City") wearing resplendent
clothing, laughing loud and guzzling the finest beer and whiskey. Food
was everywhere. Mother was an excellent cook, but Aunt Ophelia was an
artist. Her German Chocolate Cake - baked on an oversized cookie sheet,
the texture a cross between a brownie and a cake - was a masterpiece;
after each bite, 1 would shake my head and chuckle the way Mama did
when she was moved by some real good preaching.
Good people reigned here. No matter if my uncle had gotten
drunk and violently cursed his sisters, he could return and be instantly
embraced by Christian forgiveness from my grandmother and some seri-
ous southern-fried chicken with rice or beef and vegetable soup made
with vegetables from Mama's garden and on Thanksgiving, turkey, dress-
ing and numerous side dishes.
After our meal of barbecue, spaghetti, cole slaw and potato salad,
it was time for a car ride in Florence's sky blue Cadillac, Calvin and 1
whispering in the back seated next to Mother; Mama quietly sitting next
to Florence who was engaged in non-stop conversation with my mother.
Their voices rose and bounced front seat to back, back to front with gos-
sip and running commentary.
"Look at that," Florence said as she drove past a woman walking
down a sidewalk. "She knows she's too big to be wearing a dress that
tight. In bright yellow, no less. Why didn't she just do yellow and black
horizontals like a big fat bumble bee and get it over with?"
After a short ride, barely fifteen minutes, we'd arrive at the cem-
etery, where my grandfather, his sons Robert and Hoyt and three other
sons who died at childbirth were buried. Outside the cemetery's gate, ven-
dors noisily sold plastic flowers, wreaths and American flags to families
and friends who were, according to my mother, "throwing away money."
DT Our plastic bouquets had already been purchased days before, and far
away from the cemetery and its inflated prices. My mother and aunt were
almost fanatical in their quest to save a dollar; no need to waste one
here, the flowers were soon going to be tarnished by heat, rain, and the
Inside the gate, near the entrance, Florence honked and waved at
her friend Jerry, who was in charge of the cemetery, as she drove past the
main office. No matter where we went, Florence knew someone, and most
times, it was the person in charge. The cemetery building was a blur of
action: throngs of visitors entering and leaving the office carrying list-
ings of the whereabouts of their deceased family members and friends.
We never went in. We intuitively felt our way around the grounds, the
locations of the graves and the ordeal of the deaths - Hoyt murdered
at high school when he was 16, Robert at 38 of cancer, and the sudden
death of their father - forever etched in Florence's and Mother's memo-
Our bag of plastic flowers and a small shovel in hand, we walked
past a large sign prohibiting planting flowers at the gravesites and head-
ed to the section where my grandfather was buried. We would spread
out, inspecting graves, removing leaves, grass, and dirt that covered the
flat headstones we couldn't read through the dust and grime until finally
someone called out, "Here."
Husband and Father
We continued to my two uncles' graves, each in a different location
(There was no money to buy a family plot; funeral needs were addressed
one dead relative at a time). At my uncles' graves, we repeated our ritual:
the removal of weeds, dirt and debris, a short remembrance, and the plac-
ing of artificial bouquets. Somehow, the unmarked graves of three still-
born babies were lost.
We'd solemnly enter Florence's car. She'd pull out driving slowly
around the cemetery, furtively spying the grounds as if she were on a se-
cret spy mission like our TV heroes from "Mission Impossible." We joined
her, "Mission lmpossible's" theme playing in our heads. Bom Bom Bom
Bom Bom Bom Bom Bom Twiddle dec Twiddle dee.
"There!" All heads turned to a vacant area. Not a mourner in sight. DQ
Florence wheeled her car to the side of the road. Calvin and 1, car-
rying bag and shovel, exited the car, my excitement so intense, my legs
fluttered in spasms as 1 walked. Florence and Mother followed after us,
Florence admonishing us for our unnecessary exuberance while Mama
remained in the car, frowning in disapproval. We branched off in differ-
ent directions searching until one of us called out, "Here!"
We gathered around the grave. To the outside eye, we were a
family at the grave of a loved one: the bowed heads, prayer; the digging
around the headstones, the removal of weeds. Carefully looking around,
we removed the potted plants from the dirt, then walked determinedly
to Florence's car, but not so quick as to draw attention. Mama scowled
disapprovingly as we neared and opened the trunk where we placed the
flowers in an empty box. We'd close the trunk and return to the deserted
area, spreading out until someone called out "Here! "An other grave with
prohibited planted flowers. There were signs everywhere:
PLEASE: Do not plant flowers or trees at the gravesites.
They will be removed.
Thank you, the Management
Jerry, the cemetery manager, constantly complained to Florence of
the difficulty of maintaining the grounds when visitors failed to comply
with the cemetery rules banning potted plants, flowers and trees. The day
after Memorial Day, workers went through the grounds removing and
destroying whatever planted flowers the workers didn't take home. Jerry
told Florence she was welcome to return first thing that morning and
help herself to any planted flowers on the premises, as long as she was
discreet. The next morning, she was on her way to work in The City so we
took our potted plants while we were at the cemetery.
We would make several trips around the park, locating sections
with the fewest mourners, Calvin and 1 excitedly searching for our bounty
quickly transforming into poses of grief whenever passing cars or walk-
ing mourners approached. Occasionally, 1 would shake my bowed head
overcome by grief, then do a little wail - the first indication of my pro-
pensity for acting.
The families who honored their beloved with those forbidden flow-
ers would have been devastated by our act sometimes done less than
Cj4 fifteen minutes after they left the gravesite. Touch one of our relatives'
graves and an indignant scripture-laden torrent (with a few choice curse
words, most likely from Florence) would storm down upon you. Of course,
she would have never planted prohibited flowers, which were against the
rules and a waste of money. 5/?eknew better.
"'Do Not Plant Flowers Please' signs everywhere," she would say as
she drove around the cemetery. "They capitalize the please; they beg them
not to plant flowers and still ... Don't these people know how to read?
Every year. Tisk. Tisk."
At home we'd inspect our stash with the same glee and awe Calvin
and 1 had when we dumped our Halloween candy onto the kitchen table
after a night of trick-or-treating. Before us was a trunk full of wax bego-
nias, purple and yellow pansies, bright orange and yellow marigolds, deep
pink petunias and miniature rose bushes. "These flowers would cost us a
small fortune in the store," my mother and aunt would exclaim as they
divided their bounty. Florence's would go in the yellow brick flower box
cemented to the front of the family house; Mother's, next to the hedges in
our front yard, near her peonies.
Eventually, like Halloween, the adventure portion of our Memorial
Day ritual was discontinued because Calvin and 1 had grown too old for
the activities. What we had once thought thrilling had branded as "coun-
try" and "embarrassing." My brother and 1 didn't mind placing flowers on
our dead relatives' graves, in fact, we looked forward to it but we were
NOT going to remove them from anyone else's, prohibited or not.
Who mentioned it first, 1 can't remember, but once taking the
flowers was questioned, a cloak of embarrassment darkened our once ex-
hilarating Memorial Day anticipation. We could never again dig them up
without being acutely aware that we were digging up the good, though
ill-advised, intentions of some grieving family. They could be from the
grave of someone whose relatives we knew! We could get caught! By
someone we knew! It could/would get back to our junior high school.
We, who attended church every week, sometimes twice a week, made top
grades and were lauded by our teachers; we, who rode around in Cadil-
lacs and looked down on our supposed-lessers, were part of a Mother-led
band of thieves who stole flowers off dead people's graves.
The scandal would spread faster than an Internet urban legend.
We had been very lucky all those years: not one moment of un- Cj^j
easiness or potential discovery. Mother was a respected former Sunday
school teacher; Florence was one of the first and few blacks working in
the business offices of the International Harvester Corporation, our church
clerk, President of Robbins' United Way, President of the Wonderette's
Social Club and Daughter Ruler of the Elks. A society lady.
Yes, a scandal.
The next Memorial Day, the ritual of cooking the barbecue and
its aroma were tainted by our repulsion towards our former adventure. 1
eyed my brother - "You do it. No, you. You're the oldest", he stared back.
Normally, he would complain endlessly about being the youngest;
this was the first time he ever saw it as an advantage. 1 had no response
to his argument; it was up to me. 1 pondered soliciting my grandmother
in our intervention; she had often quietly expressed disapproval of our
adventure but was always respectfully dismissed and pooh-poohed as too
naive, sweet and impractical. After waiting hours for the right moment
- through the marinating, the cooking, the basting, and the application
of sauce - 1 had the opportunity to bring it up: Florence mentioned the
cemetery. 1 took a breath working up the nerve to tell my mother and my
aunt that 1 thought they were stealing and 1 didn't want to be part of it
anymore; and if they continued, 1 wasn't participating in any part of Me-
morial Day including placing flowers on their beloved father's grave. 1
took another audible breath (it was more of a sigh) hoping she would ask
me what caused it. She said nothing. 1 was so nervous, 1 could only eat
three plates of food.
"Get the shovel out of the shed," Florence instructed us after we
completed our meal. 1 looked to my brother who returned my stare, our
facial muscles and internal dialogues in full debate:
"Now. Now's the perfect opportunity. Do it now."
"No, you do it."
"No, you. You're the oldest."
"Only by eleven months."
"You're still the oldest."
"Yes, 1 am ... Dammit!" 1 fidgeted. My lips sputtered and Calvin
quickly deserted me, escaping to the shed.
During the ride to the cemetery, my brother, his facial muscles
gesturing frantically, eyed me during the entire ride. 1 waited for the op-
DD portunity to speak up, prepared to pounce on any word or sentence re-
lated to flowers or graves. Mother and Florence were passionate women,
not easily crossed; even their normal conversations had the volume of a
verbal heavyweight-boxing match. Usually, 1 ignored them, treating their
voices as noisy background music, but during this ride, 1 imagined those
voices turned angrily against me, the leader of this mutiny, this personal
affront to their values and their revered and much-quoted father. 1 finally
opened my mouth and the words fled back in. They too, were afraid of
the Hawkins sisters.
We entered the cemetery and passed the sign about planting Please
don't. Maybe everyone would obey it this year. PLEASE.
At the graves of my grandfathers and uncles, my heart pounded
louder than a twenty-one gun salute. 1 didn't hear any of Florence's or
Mother's remembrances. 1 was too busy rehearsing my speech.
We returned to the car, the silence broken by the guns popping in
my chest. Florence spotted a deserted section. "There." She stopped the
car. Calvin and 1 eyed each other then uneasily exited the car. Florence
and Mother followed. Ghosts and zombies pointing at me stood protec-
tively in front of their graves daring me to enter. 1 froze.
"We don't want to do this anymore," 1 blurted.
"What?" asked Florence.
Mama gave a vigorous nod.
"Jerry told me to take them," Florence said. "He's the manager. It
wasn't my idea. He suggested it. See those signs? Those flowers are going
in the garbage tomorrow."
"Then come back tomorrow ... today, it's stealing."
My talkative aunt turned silent. Mother bowed her head and, un-
like the bowing we did around our pretend family's graves, this one was
sincere and full of shame.
From that day on, the adventure portion of Memorial Day was
over. They quietly entered the car.
They weren't thieves. They were pragmatic and damaged by pov-
erty. No matter how much their lifestyles contrasted with those around
them, no matter what type of car driven, how much money in the bank,
Florence and Mother were forever wounded by their father's death. They
were still the two oldest unmarried children; Florence, twenty-one, and
Mother, sixteen, feeling the tremendous pressure of financially support- D7
ing their timid unemployed mother and five younger brothers without
going on government assistance.
Memorial Day, 2008, Calvin, forty-seven, is driving us to Burr Oak.
Seated next to him is his fiancee Carol. My eighty-three year-old mother
sits next to me in the back. She and Aunt Ophelia are the only two re-
maining of Mama's eleven children. The radio DJ is urging listeners to
call in: "Come on, people, call in and let us know: What happened back
in the day that you want to bring back?" As we ride, 1 think about past
Memorial Day dinners, barbecue, my family, and potted flowers.
We pass sales people by the gate hawking plastic American flags
and fancy new plastic arrangements fashioned after license plates,
brightly colored roses embroidering the edges - in the middle, words pro-
claiming father, mother, grandmother, son, daughter, brother, or sister.
As part of our tradition, we have already purchased our plastic flowers.
In mother's lap are ten bouquets - Mama, my grandfather, Florence, five
uncles, one of their wives and a cousin.
There is a sign near the entrance:
March 15 - April 1
June 15 - July 1
October 5 - November 1
NO FENCES OR ROCKS ALLOWED ON GRAVES1TES. We ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ITEMS LEFT
on grave. Thank you, the management.
In a few weeks, even the plastic flowers will be in danger.
Cemetery employees direct the busy traffic. Droves of families
move throughout the cemetery, some with kids, many carrying food. A
forlorn-looking woman sits in a lounge chair. Next to her is an empty
chair. Aside the chairs is a freshly-covered grave. Calvin drives by the
temporary information booths located outside the cemetery office. People
walk away with sheets of paper as we pass.
"Mo, it's Memorial Day. This is what we do for you, dawg," a
young man nearby shouts loudly in anguish as we spread out searching
for Mama's grave. 1 turn to a group of young men in oversized white t-
DQ shirts and baggy pants. They drink from pint bottles of what 1 assume is
alcohol. A man takes a toke of marijuana then passes it to another. One
man takes his bottle and pours alcohol on his dawg's grave. "We here for
you, dawg," he exclaims, his wounded voice echoing through the park.
We continue searching for Mama's grave. "We walked from Flor-
ence's grave to visit Mama after Florence's burial," 1 say. "It wasn't far
We spread out until Calvin says, "Here."
Mother rifles through her bag of flowers and removes the prettiest
one, a spray of radiant yellow roses with a dust of sparkles on each petal.
Yes, Mama would have approved with a sweet, appreciative smile. Carol
tenderly rearranges the slightly scrunched bouquet as if taking special
care for the gentle person on whose grave they would lay and whom she
has met only through story. Calvin takes the hoe and chops around the
edges of the headstone. 1 brush away the dust covering the headstone.
Clean for another year. We are silent, reverent. We quietly walk away.
Florence's headstone lies at the foot of Albert's grave as if she is
still responsible for watching over her misbehaving younger brother and
is prepared to act as interference between him and his wife, just as she
did in real life before they divorced.
"Albert's still stalking Mildred," 1 joke.
"She was one patient woman," Calvin says to Carol as he chops
around Mildred's headstone and chuckles. "He drank too much, followed
her, cursed her, stalked her. They got divorced and she still had to put up
with him. He loved her - he just couldn't handle it. She was there till the
end. Even at his funeral."
We enter the car and drive to the section where Ernest is buried.
We have trouble finding his grave and, again have to branch out. "Here,"
Calvin yells out. We repeat our ritual - Calvin chops with the hoe; 1 brush
"This was my favorite Uncle," he says to Carol. 1 see images of a
happy young Calvin in Ernest's filthy truck on their way to the junkyard,
with a grin so wide you'd think he was on his way to the circus. "Albert
was later ... Ernest died early. He drank way too much and loved getting
on Florence's nerves. Florence would fuss and fuss."
"Pulled a pistol on him one time," 1 add.
"Pistol pointed at him, her body and head around the corner," he
1 idly look around for potted plants but don't spot any.
We get in the car and head to Butch 's, my mother's youngest sib-
ling's grave. A few weeks before 1 left for my freshman year of college, he
was robbed, tied-up, beaten and left in a ditch to die, which he did a few
days later. Before his funeral, 1 accompanied Florence and an adult male
cousin to view his body at the funeral home.
It wasn't Butch. No sign of him that 1 could see. It was someone
else, some bruised and mutilated stranger wearing his clothes.
"1 did the best 1 could," said the undertaker. Florence nodded.
My cousin wanted to leave the casket open so everyone could see
the reality of what was done, perhaps prompting guilt and outrage and
someone with information to step forward. 1 didn't think my sensitive
mother and grandmother could take the spectacle. Even tough Florence
had taken a quick look then turned away, telling me, her voice breaking,
"You look at him." This last image of Butch and my new awareness of
man's capacity for violence haunted me for years.
We held a family meeting and discussed having an open casket
funeral. Florence acquiesced to my assertion that the open casket would
just be too much for family members to bear.
Finally, nine plastic bouquets down, we search for Uncle Robert's
grave, the last one we need to find. "It's not that far down," Mother says
to me after 1 break from the group. She mentions her half-sister Willie:
"Poor Willie, no one visits her grave."
The strongest memory of Willie, who died of cancer in her late six-
ties, flashes to me: Walking through the cemetery on the way to Ernest's
gravesite after his funeral, she spotted a ragged, plastic flower covered
with dirt and picked it up.
"Aunt Willie, what are you doing with that?"A cousin exclaimed.
"I'm going to put it on Frank's grave."
"That nasty thing?"
"It's more than the son-of-a-bitch gave me when he was alive." We
all laughed at this blunt, plainspoken woman until Mother, her face trem-
bling with grief as she walked toward her brother's fresh grave, jerked
around and shot us a withering look that stopped us dead in our tracks.
Calvin finally finds Robert's grave. "Here," he calls.
"That cancer got him," Mother says. "Took his leg then his body.
Right after he opened his gas station. That cancer. Poor Willie. 1 should
have bought her a flower. No one visits her grave."
"Pretty soon, no one will visit ours," Calvin says. 1 brush off the head-
He says what 1 am thinking but unlike him, 1 can't find any humor
in my thoughts. 1 am saddened. The youngest person surrounding the
grave is my forty-eight year-old brother. 1 don't have any children. Cal-
vin's three children are all grown. His daughter lives in Los Angeles. One
son is so busy in the corporate world, if we see him twice a year, it is an
exception. The other son, a late discovery, is new to the family without
any sense of our past. Uncle Albert's son, Alvin, is the most likely person
to take up the mantle - he has occasionally visited the cemetery - but he
No new generation is learning our history, our rituals and tradi-
tions. No one will clean our headstones, lay plastic flowers and tell our
stories. Our graves will succumb to dust, leaves and cemetery neglect.
1 ponder what can be done to halt what seems an unthinkable
inevitability until 1 realize my sentiments are one of a middle-aged man,
who like my eighty-three year-old mother, has seen too much death.
"Next time 1 will get one for Willie," my mother mutters again.
"She didn't have any children."
1 am angry. Angry at the cruelty of age, of death, of change, then
realize in shock if someone looked for the culprit responsible for weak-
ening our family traditions, a finger would be pointed at me with my
no-children, once-a-year-visiting-for-a-week life. 1 was one of the many
post-Martin Luther King golden boys and girls taking advantage of prog-
ress, leaving our African -American communities to make our mark on
the real world, and rarely returning. 1 don't feel guilt as 1 come to this
realization, just sadness, and an acute awareness that with everything
comes a price.
It took my mother's Alzheimer's to bring me home. She no longer
cooks so Carol and 1 have taken over the cooking duties. 1 bake German
Chocolate Cakes from Aunt Ophelia's recipe. 1 receive praise for them, but 71
1 am merely a talented forger imitating a master. 1 make potato salad like
Mother's, each spoonful a symmetrical delight of potato, boiled egg, dill
pickle, celery, onion, and green pepper perfectly accented with salt, black
pepper and paprika, with a dash of mustard for "color." 1 bake hams and
cover them with cloves and pineapple, like Florence.
My mother, eighty-three, wearing her regal church hats, her
crowns, still attends the church my grandfather helped found although
in a different building. She chats and visits her lifelong girlfriends, who
unlike my generation, remained in town. Aunt Ophelia is ninety-one and
healthy, her Thanksgiving dinners and July 4th parties distant memories.
Christmas dinners stopped with Mama's death in 1986.
Calvin has started a new tradition where our family and friends
gather on Labor Day in addition to New Year's Day for potato salad, spa-
ghetti, cole slaw and barbecue cooked slowly over simmering coals with
a container of water at ready for errant flames.
1 stand, eager, my empty plate in hand.
Brother, where art thou?
By Lauren delghdo
One sigh of relief. 1 pull into my driveway and 1 am home at last.
Just finished another day of relishing in the futile efforts of professors
attempting to instill knowledge into my stubborn mind. 1 stumble out of
my car just to smell the aroma of burning charcoal in the air. Pop didn't
really trust the use of propane grills. He considered charcoal to be more
natural, which in turn, blessed whatever he was grilling with winning
taste. 1 walk closer to the door, and 1 hear muffled voices. One more sigh.
But not of relief. 1 unlock the front door.
7^ 1 turn left and head for the dining room and almost instantly, 1
smell something. The kind of stench that reeks terribly putrid. Twisted. 1
disregard it. 1 get to the dining room and it's time for pleasantries. Time
to greet the llnavoidables. Aunt here, Uncle there. Then 1 wave at Pop
from inside and give a kiss to Mom. My only truly sincere moment.
1 look to the end of the dining table and there he is. Smiling.
Laughing raucously, as if he was trying to entice feelings of jealousy from
the ones that he seemingly loves. Back from the United States Air Force.
Wearing his fucking camouflage suit. Whatever they call it. He looks at
me, his eyes flashing something that causes a piercing siren to erupt
from within me. 1 go to hug him. He wraps his arms around my waist. My
stomach twitches. My hips expand. Even my hips were trying to evade
whatever his arms were giving off. He motions for me to greet Monica.
"Monica, the Fiance." The kind of creature with the sheer and unsuspect-
ing credulousness that he absolutely craves in people.
1 can feel more eyes on me. 1 glance quickly at my mother. In that
instant, her eyes visit mine. Her beautiful eyes, conveying a kind of hope.
Understanding this, 1 sit down, facing him. Mom asks me how my day
was. 1 throw in a one-word response. And just that one word prompts his
propeller to start. Anything will get that bastard to start up and aggran-
dize himself. He begins to speak. And 1 exercise restraint.
The unsullied asininity of his words enters my ears as malicious
minions spawned only from his ridiculousness. Fabrication decorated his
pathetically pallid existence. My ears secrete sharp pain as 1 can hear the
shrieks crying out from the nasty creatures that are his words. My nose
tweaks. My face disassembles. As 1 sit there, broken, he presses on. 1 bite
down, clenching my jaw while 1 feel all rational thought erode in my
mind. God, 1 can feel the evil critters eating away at my brain cells, put-
ting my countless marijuana fixes to shame. Food's ready.
As 1 sit there, eating my grilled tilapia, 1 watch as he voraciously
tears apart his rare steak. That poor animal. Killed for the sake of human
consumption, only to end up trapped in the trenches of his fervent in-
ferno. As he speaks, 1 can see the blood of his rare steak in combination
with his beastly slobber fly out of his mouth, escaping what would be
a hellish abyss. He grabs his cup to drink and water drips onto his uni-
form. Fucking Neanderthal. 1 sit back, still watching him as he wipes his
uniform. His uniform which he thinks glorifies him. It's too bad that the
green patterns only serve to look like scales. With every gesture and move 7^
he makes, 1 can hear his scales crackling. Snapping. His reptilian form is
finally beginning to present itself.
After dinner, 1 venture out to the backyard. 1 look through the
clear sliding door. The veneer separating my presence from his. 1 see him
talking, but 1 don't hear him. Outside, out here, 1 am free. 1 check the
time on my cell phone. 5:17pm. Not long until his flight back to Texas
departs. 1 see him get up. Monica too. Pop gestures for me to come back
in. 1 oblige. As he leaves for the front door, he hugs me one last time. My
body cringes. His repugnance is inescapable. 1 close my eyes as he says
goodbye and 1 say hello. To peace of mind. For she is finally beckoning
[RUREN DELGflDD is the fiction editor for Audemus Magazine. She graduated from
Mount St. Mary's College in May 2010 with a BA in English Literature. Writing
has always been her main medium of expression. Her writing is her voice. Lauren
currently lives in Los Angeles where she continues to write with plans to pursue
graduate school. She hopes to pursue a career in teaching as well as in writing.
MflRISS FESTR graduated from Mount St. Mary's College in May 2010 with a BA in
English Literature and a minor in Philosophy. She is currently living in Los Ange-
les and writes a travel blog that can be found at: http://airdebonair.blogspot.com.
Marissa plans on pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and continue her passion
of writing, travel, and photography.
PHYLLIS RflWLEY is the author of three books on career tips for teenagers and young
adults. She has an MFA in Non-Fiction Creative Writing from Antioch University
of Los Angeles and currently working on her childhood memoir as a military brat.
flMY YflTES did her undergraduate study at the University of San Diego where she
majored in Visual Arts with an emphasis in photography and a minor in Art His-
tory. She graduated in May 2010, and is currently staying in San Diego to work on
her portfolio and apply to graduate school. Amy became interested in the camera
as a medium because it is limiting. "Each photograph captures a moment in time
that can't be changed, and what is in the frame actually happened." A photograph
is "taken," and she became interested in a photograph by playing with the idea of
stealing reality. From the moment she began photographing, she has been perceiv-
ing her surroundings as if through the lens of the camera-cropping the world-
even without a camera in hand. It has become her way of seeing. Currently, she
is also looking at artist residency programs, with somewhere in France as her first
choice. After an MFA, she sees herself going into teaching. According to Yates,
however, "the future is never as clearly in focus as a photograph."
UNIlfl RRVENSWOOD'S work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flaming Arrows (Ireland),
The Wilshire Review (Los Angeles), Enigma Magazine (England), Poetry Salzburg
Review (University of Salzburg Press), Poetry Magazine (US), Caterwaul Quarterly
(US), BlazeVox (US), Rivets Literary Magazine (US), Relief Magazine (US), Unlikely
Stories (US), Break the Silence (US), Underground Voices (Los Angeles), ReadThis
(University of Montana Press) and on PBS. Her story No Impact Organ was re-
cently featured on the No Impact Man Project website in. She holds a BFA (Music,
Theatre, Fine Art) from The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and an MA
(Humanities; Emphasis in Creative Writing) from Mount Saint Mary's College. She
has lived extensively in the US, Ireland and the UK. She is presently in Los Ange-
les pursuing her Ph.D.
CflROLL SUN YANG is a lone wolf with dance cub (a.k.a a son.) She is currently sling-
ing food in Highland Park and earning her MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Antioch
University Los Angeles. She just started a list of "Best Inventions" and so far it
is going well: Glitter, windows, gorilla glue, black eyeliner, hoodies, jeans, boys,
sperm, eggs, boyish girls, girlish boys, feathers, wood grain, paneling, plywood,
rubbermaid shit, qwerty, "like" and "like", punctuation, punk, ink, sharpies, theft,
netflix, peer to peer, vans (auto), pot pies, libraries, cuss, youtube, twine, branches,
creeks, weed, wildflowers, heart, instruments, implements, iphoto, lanterns, sauces,
red velvet, velvet paintings, dives, colored light bulbs, microsoft word, tape mea-
sures, diners, animals, cumulonimbus clouds, chameleons on hieroglyphics, digital
pianos, green tea extract, atkins, bobby pins, undershirts for boys, gems... She is
frequently found screwing about on Facebook, being certified as a Psychosocial
Rehabilitation Specialist, or confusing the hell out of other mammals.
LEVRN D HAWKINS describes himself as "one who uplifts, an artist striving towards the
truth" and " as a bridge between races, sexualities, religions, believers and non-
believers." He has performed and read at venues and events across the country,
and has been published in publications and anthologies such as the LA Times, LA
Weekly, LA Frontiers, Sacramento News ft Review, Spillway, Voices from Leim-
ert Park, and Children of the Dream: Our Own Stories of Growing Up Black in
America. A self-help and personal development enthusiast, Hawkins was awarded
a scholarship to the Norman Mailer Writer's Colony, on a chapter of a memoir that
he is currently writing based on his struggles to mentor his adult nephew. Hawkins
is a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently working on his Mas-
ters degree in Creative Writing at Antioch University, Los Angeles.
[DRETTfl CDNTRERflS calls herself a Los Angeles native, a foodie, a dancer, and a night
owl. She received her B.A. in English with a Creative Writing concentration at
UCLA, and her M.A. in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis at Loyola Mary-
mount University. What she wants to write about and what she ends up writing
are sometimes two totally different things. According to Contreras, "What exists
in-between is what keeps me writing. There is always something that manifests."
WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE MOUNT ST. MHRY'S COLLEGE flAT DEPARTMENT.
ENGLISH DEPARTMENT. STUDENT flFFHIRS, RND llRRRRY ; DEHN SR. JOSEPH flDELE
EDWHRDS; DOR FRCOLTY ADVISOR MARCOS MCPEEK-VlLLATOAO ; POOL lAAOTWEIN ;
DA. MATTHEW BAOSAMEA; PAISCILLA ENAIOOEZ ; AND OOA DEAA FAIENDS J.fl. AND
/O MAAY WAD AAE TADLY AESPONSIALE FDA BRINGING TAIS MAGAZINE TO ACTOAL-
THE EDITOAS INVITE SUBMISSIONS OF POETAY. FICTION. NON-FICTION. ESSAYS AND
AAT. SEND MANOSCAIPTS TO MVILLATOAO@MSMC.LA.EDO OA TO MAACOS VjLLATORO/
HUDEMUS/ MOUNT ST. MAAY'S COLLEGE/ 12001 CAALON RD./ tOS RNGELES CO
90049- MANOSCAIPTS WILL NOT RE RETORNED ONLESS ACCOMPANIED BY A STAMPED.